Why This Blog?

The aim of this blog is to fit into the blogosphere like the bracingly tart taste of yogurt fits between the boringly bland and the unspeakably vile.

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(C) Copyright 2012 DenRita Enterprises

Friday, August 31, 2012

The 600 - pound Gorilla

Now about that 600 pound gorilla that no one wants to mention. This critter symbolizes two issues that are fueling the diatribe. And, those are the issues that are triggering propaganda, misinformation and out-and-out lies in the campaign advertising.

Charter isn't perfect

Please don’t misunderstand me, here. I think, from reading the proposed charter quite a few times, that it could use a lot of touching up. For example, formally stating audit requirements might be better than relying on current financial practices – or not. However, any important change is pretty simple to make – convince enough of my neighbors that it’s needed, and then let the voters decide. Or I can persuade the sitting council members to bring the change to the electorate for their vote. After all, if we’re going to pay for it, we should vote for it.

Why the screaming
But petty issues and wording weaknesses aren’t fueling the screaming and chest thumping. What screaming and thumping, you ask? Well one group of folks insists that only they know what the charter “really means,” and lists what is “left out” of the charter with nefarious intent. And, it suggests the potential for council members to ignore Section 205 and interfere with audit procedures, or billing, or contracting. Of course, they could ignore current law, too, I guess.

Meanwhile, another group asks people to read the charter for themselves, despite the boring boilerplate – “follow existing law” just isn’t very exciting. Both groups avoid addressing the gorilla, so, here is my introduction to that screaming monkey.

Gorilla in the parlor -- a big, two-colored one

Imagine that the gorilla sitting on the floor in the front room is bi-colored. One color, say black, represents an end to “back room” pension adjustments. Section 602 states that any changes to the contracted retirement benefits, other than standard cost of living adjustments, must be accepted by the majority of the voters. This section makes dispensing the “gravy” a matter of convincing the voters that it’s justified – which seems fair since we voters will be paying for that gravy. However, convincing voters is harder than convincing a negotiator behind closed doors – and then browbeating the council into acceptance. That’s the way we do it now.

The tan side

The other color on the gorilla represents even more, and harder, work demanded from union officers; Section 603 requires that political donations from union members be collected as political funds, and not through automatic payroll deduction. That's the tan side, harder work, but not a unique requirement. If a need for more TV ads is addressed, each union member will have to be convinced to write a check. This makes collecting political money much more difficult. Union leaders have to convince each member that their “donation” is needed – for every political “donation.”

This is, to me, a benefit to union members. The union cannot assess “donations” as easily – so, if you’re tired of reading about union leaders conferring in Las Vegas and the Bahamas, you can decline to write a check for political funding. Or, if your family budget is a bit tight you can write a smaller check for your political “donation.”

Two colors, more work for officials

So, both colors of the gorilla represent more work for union officials, and that whole monkey represents a balancing of power with management, and less-directly, with the citizens of Costa Mesa who’ll pay the bills. The gorilla screams “what isn’t said” or “how it was written” or “what if somebody breaks the law and cheats.” The drumbeat – or chest beating -- goes on:  “Not this charter.” “No-bid contracts will be rigged.” And, of course, there’s always the name calling.

A zoo out there

Or maybe all of the “warnings” and “loopholes” are just straw dogs and red herrings intended to divert Costa Mesa’s citizens’ attention from the 600 pound gorilla in the parlor. After all, it’s a zoo out there!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why  is it necessary to mislead us 2 (updated)?

(Please note that this blog addresses a post on the CM4RG website that has been moved and replaced with a "plain vanilla" version of the arguments.)

This is the second of a series in response to CM4RG’s website posting of an article by Terry Koken, WHY THE CHARTER IS A BAD DEAL FOR COSTA MESA (VERSION 3 CHARTER – JULY 31, 2012). Again I’m addressing the question of why I see propaganda, disinformation, and fear mongering instead of rational argument.
And now, for another claim in the argument against the City Charter:
B.   The earliest that changes to the charter can take place is June 2014 and requires 8,600 signatures to get on the ballot. (Article 9)
Article 9, as amended, states:

This Charter, and any of its provisions, may be amended by a majority vote of the qualified voters voting on the question. Amendment or repeal may be proposed by initiative or by the City Council. (An initiative would require signatures of a percentage of voters.)

And 901 Review of the Charter states:

The City Council shall hold a public hearing during the second meeting of every tenth year after this Charter is adopted to determine if a Charter Review Commission is needed to review the City Charter, and report to the City Council suggested amendments, if any, for consideration and possible action. This section in no way limits the provisions of Section 900.

Only changed by the electorate -- fair enough

So, the Charter must be amended by the voters, and amendments may be proposed by the electorate or by the City Council at any time. Since a charter serves as a constitution for the city, it seems wise to amend it only through Costa Mesa’s voters. If anyone who believes a change should be made to the Charter can convince the legally-required sample of Costa Mesa voters that such a change is needed, the change will appear on the ballot for the next election.

The earliest that changes can be made is 2014: well, if the Charter is approved in November 2012, takes effect in 2013, and changes are then proposed, they will be subjected to a vote. If all of the required notices and delays line up wrong, the changes might not be scheduled for the ballot until November 2013; in that case the changes would take effect in 2014.

Disinformation can be defined as,

Deliberately misleading information announced publicly  . . . for the purpose of influencing opinions or perceptions. Unlike misinformation, which is also a form of wrong information, disinformation is produced by people who intend to deceive their audience.”
And, it might be noted that:
“Fear is one of the most primordial human emotions and therefore lends itself to effective use by propagandists. . . .Fear being fundamentally irrational, it is one of the techniques most widely used by propagandists.”
Why the appeal to fear, why the disinformation? Why propaganda instead of discussion? We’ll talk about that 600 pound gorilla soon to help identify some reasons for trying to mislead us.

Why is it necessary to mislead us? (updated)

(Please note that this blog addresses a post on the CM4RG website that has been moved and replaced with a "plain vanilla" version of the arguments.)

If the proposed City Charter poses danger to Costa Mesa, shouldn’t we be able to see that danger  if we read it? In this CM4RG website’s post, WHY THE CHARTER IS A BAD DEAL FOR COSTA MESA (VERSION 3 CHARTER – JULY 31, 2012)why do I see propaganda, disinformation, and fear mongering instead of rational argument? (

Also, the article overlooked the 600 pound gorilla in the room: We’ll get to the gorilla in a later post, after we’ve discussed some of the arguments in the CM4RG article.

Let’s start by reviewing the interpreters of this charter. I’ve relied upon the words in the Charter, and upon the opinions of the City Attorney and Assistant C.A. I respect the City’s attorneys and their certifications of their opinions, and take with a grain of salt any diatribe and “puff and boost” statements by attorneys or others who are not certifying their interpretations as attorneys and officers of the court.

Attorneys vs. who?

The CM4RG post I’m using is attributed to Terry Koken, a Costa Mesa resident who speaks frequently at Council meetings. He is not listed as an attorney. According to the August 27 issue of the La Canada Valley Sun:
He started college at Cornell, then transferred to Syracuse University. He did not earn a degree but found work based on his technical prowess, he said.  He worked as a software engineer, and said he was part of the graphics team on "Futureworld," a movie starring Peter Fonda and Yul Brynner in 1976.
He raised five daughters and has 10 grandchildren. His wife works in Costa Mesa, and he works in his garage. He said he earned his black belt in Judo when he was 50. It only took him 40 years of on-and-off work to get there.
So, the interpretation here is argued by two city attorneys speaking officially, vs. Mr. Koken. Let’s see over the next few blogs what the proposed Charter says, and what Mr. Koken says about that Charter. The City Attorneys’ interpretations are a matter of record in the minutes of the Council meetings.

A.   No competitive bids on contracts and purchasing (sic) opens the door to favoritism, fraud, and corruption. (Section 401b)

Section 401b actually says:

The city is exempt from the provisions of all California statutes regulating public contracting and purchasing insofar as such contracting and purchasing are solely within local control and are municipal affairs, except as provided by this Charter, City ordinance, by agreement approved by the City Council, or as otherwise required by applicable law.

And it goes on in Section g:

The City shall promote fair and open competition for all City public works construction projects so that all contractors and workers, whether union or non-union, are treated equally in the bidding and awarding of Municipal Public Works contracts and Other Public Contracts.

What does it change?

So, current practice in Costa Mesa, designed to promote fair and open competition, will not change under the Charter. That is, Department heads can buy goods and services up to a specified level, for their department – perhaps by calling Office Depot. And, purchases for higher and higher dollar values require greater and greater scrutiny, including by the City Council. Finally, at the formal bid level, purchases require use of a state defined formal bidding process to help assure equality and economy. The difference between “no bid” contracts and bid contracts is that “bid” contracts follow a state-mandated procedure, and “no-bid” contracts follow local regulations written in accordance with state law, exactly as is done now. Union contracts will not be favored over non-union contracts under the Charter.

Give the business to their friends?

The City Council is required to conduct all business through the CEO, and individual members are specifically forbidden to interfere with, or order acts – including contracting or purchasing – by any city entity. So the Charter gives no Council members authority to contract with their friends.

Note that, according to Wikipedia,

“The practice of quoting out of context, sometimes referred to as "contextomy" or "quote mining” is a logical fallacy and a type of false attribution  . . . to distort its intended meaning.”

 More in the next blog.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

City Council meeting 21 August

Crime around Lions' Park

Speakers addressed the council regarding increasing crime in the Lions’ Park area, citing residents and guests of two motels, and other transients, as being ongoing crime and safety concerns. “Shooting up” in the dumpster and in a grocery’s restroom was frequently mentioned. The residents and property owners were concerned the area was becoming a nidus for crime and drugs.

Council expressed sympathy, directed public works to develop a plan on lighting, the city executive to set up meetings with police, residents and a council member, and directed the police chief to get some officers off of motorcycles and out into the area. I thought the council worked through the executive – maybe mayoral hubris?

Naysayers are opposed -- of course

And, not surprisingly, a couple of members of CM4RG spoke, attributing the crime to decreased numbers of police officers due to the council’s refusal to deal honestly with the unions. One such attack, along with the presence of reps from the PD (and, I think FD) unions scowling in the back of the room provoked one of Bever’s tirades and probably Righeimer’s outburst that he would not be intimidated by union demands.

Spelled correctly and without all-capital-letters

I see that blogs, such as the Bubbling Cauldron, mention the dissents but ignore the many more expressions of approval of the council and of the COIN proposition. The bloggers and followers ascribe motives and apply insulting adjectives to the council members – except Leece. Though childish, their outbursts and their assumption of their omniscience are at least spelled right today, and they didn’t resort to screaming in ALL CAPS.


The COIN measure was supported by four CC members and a most of the public who spoke. Leece and members of the CM4RG group seemed reluctant to actually publicly oppose the transparency the measure promotes. Instead, they diverted attention to a past motion by Leece which would have required similar reporting but about most contacts and most subjects, regardless of cost or impact; this had been rejected by the Council as excessive when it was proposed.

End-run with rules

A CM4RG member said COIN must have taken more than the four hours allowed by city policy and Leece pounded on the issue. (This was a policy adopted to avoid over-committing the city staff for issues of one council member – Mensinger used more than four hours over the past year and a half without the authorization.) The interruption temporarily diverted attention from the support being offered for COIN. The rule will be reviewed at a future meeting.


I learned from this meeting: The majority of the council can and will act rapidly in response to legitimate complaints from citizens. Leece petulantly votes against everything if she’s miffed (and she takes many remarks personally even if she isn’t specifically mentioned) and against anything the other four support, and she is closely allied with CM4RG and the employee unions even meeting with them before the council sits. The PD union follows their lawyers’ playbook (see OC Register article 19 Aug). Most of the speakers expressed approval of the council and the COIN measure, but the blogs emphasized the opponents’ comments.

Bever and Righeimer seem to be losing control in the face of union and CM4-group pettiness and arrogance. A CM4RG member didn’t have any songs to offer at this meeting but tried to gift the council members with beer as a solution to their perceived “beer deprivation.”

NO to problem, NO to solution, just NO

As I understand the position of those opposing COIN it provides transparency in contract negotiations but not enough transparency in unrelated areas. Their position on the increasing crime is that its source is reduced PD manpower due to the council not negotiating with the union in good faith, and hiding their bad faith negotiations behind the closed negotiations. Thus the problem and the solution are both unacceptable and strictly a result of personality defects in four council members. I'm sure they will do better than this -- sooner or later.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Meeting Weitzberg

Harold Weitzberg, sponsored a coffee/get acquainted on his front lawn. He said I should vote for him because Costa Mesa has a financial problem and his solutions insure unity, safety, and prosperity, his theme.  He noted that a charter might be needed to free us from Sacramento control, but not this one because it presents too many dangers. His arguments for the dangers of this charter were a rehash of unsupported claims featured on the CM4RG site.

Charter meaning is hidden

Weitzberg said the council won’t tell you what the charter says, just what they think it means and insisted he had read the copy of the charter (link above). However, he couldn’t tell me where the charter’s dangers appeared, but instead offered that, “It’s what’s left out that makes it so bad.”

He said that the provisions of the charter opened the city to more lawsuits and acrimony and was an open invitation to give business to friends instead of to the lowest bidder. When I suggested that under the charter purchasing and contracting pretty much followed current practices he said that everyone knows you need checks and balances. He could not explain how continuing to follow our current purchasing and contracting procedures would open up “giving business to their friends.” He seems to think that by repeatedly misusing the purchasing term “no bid contract” he would damn the charter as a clear and present danger to Costa Mesa.

Why can't we all just get along?

Harold said the way to balance the city budget was to negotiate with the unions in good faith and that the current council has not, even though the unions had offered two and three-tier deals. He said that “it’s more complicated than that” regarding the requirement that management tells the truth to all employees in labor negotiations but that the unions were not so obligated. And further, that the council won’t even mention the unions’ offers is proof of the members’ inflexible,” my way or the highway” approach to labor negotiations.  He knows that the Brown Act limits some kinds of information release but believes it doesn't apply  to this.

Burglaries because no new cops hired

He said that the current rash of burglaries is an expected result of the City Council not hiring new police officers; the reason they won’t is because they want to beat the unions and won’t negotiate in good faith. (Note the August 16 OC Register article about suggested negotiation tactics for PD unions.) His argument seems to be another way to blame crime problems on politicians instead of on criminals – unfortunately that makes treating the problem misguided at best -- we don't need to make the politicians open and honest we need to jail criminals.


Learned from this visit: Mr. W’s knowledge base is the CM4RG, he believes that the City Council meeting disruptions are justified by the importance of the CM4 party line, he doesn’t believe that I can read and understand the charter without interpretive help (from CM4RG or him but not from the City Council, the City Attorney, or the City Manager), and that he is sure that the opposition is deceitful and well-funded. His dogs love treats.